Emirates Lions 30

Connacht 33 

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht became only the second northern hemisphere team to win in South Africa in the United Rugby Championship this season after a brilliant 33-30 win over the Emirates Lions. 

 

The away team dotted down three tries via Cian Prendergast, a penalty try, and Tom Daly with Jack Carty showing great nerve to slot four penalties. 

 

The hosts scored four tries – two of which were converted – of their own alongside two penalties, but it was Connacht – whose set-piece efficiency and attacking prowess made the difference – who deservedly held out for the win. 

 

Connacht began the game at a rate of knots and they had a try only two minutes in. Carty elected to go to the line from a penalty in midfield and, from the resultant line out, the Irish team launched an attack deep in the Lion’s 22. Hard carries from Bundee Aki and Mack Hansen drew them closer to the line before Caolin Blade’s cutting pass met the incisive line of Prendergast and the back row skipped in for the try. Carty converted and the away team were 7-0 ahead. 

 

Not content with one score, Connacht were ambitious in search of tries and they were rewarded for their mentality with a second try in what was proving a bountiful opening ten minutes. 

 

Carty turned down the shot at goal in the Lions’ 22 after the forwards powerfully won a scrum penalty and instead opted for a kick to the line for a line out. The away team pack powerfully drove their opponents backward and, when the maul collapsed, the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty try and brandishing a yellow card to the hosts for Ruan Dreyer. With the guaranteed seven points, Andy Friend’s men were one man and 14 points to the good. 

 

The Lions, back to their full allocation of players after Dreyer’s time in the sin bin elapsed, managed the wrestle back some momentum as the half neared its midway point and Jordan Hendrikse opened their account for the afternoon with a sweetly struck penalty, to take the score to 3-14 in Connacht’s favour. 

 

The remainder of the half was an even affair, with both teams enjoying spells of pressure, only for the defences to come out on top until, on the stroke of halftime, Maxwane ran a clever support line to run in a try in the right-hand corner. The conversion was wide, so Connacht were 8-14 ahead going into the break.

 

Connacht began the second half in fine fettle and they were the first to add the scoreboard when Carty – from just inside the Lions’ half – powerfully hit a penalty between the posts to stretch the away team’s lead to 8-17. 

 

 The Lions joined in on the act soon after and Hendrickse’s penalty had them on the scoreboard for the first time in the half as we approached the 50th minute, cutting Connacht’s lead to six points at 11-17.

 

Carty, whose use of the boot – both from the tee and in open play – was superb through, added Connacht’s next score, by expertly dispatching a penalty that saw them break the twenty-point mark. 

 

The Lions, though, began to turn on the pressure from that point and, after a penalty they chose to kick to the line, they launched an attack that ended with scrum-half van Den Berg opportunistically sniping in over the line. The conversion from Hendrickse was good and the lead Connacht had built was reduced to two points at 18-20.

 

The flow of the game was even and Connacht were the next side to trouble the scoreboard when Carty once again showed his prowess from the kicking tee with a beautifully hit penalty that stretched the Irish team even further ahead, leading by five points at 18-23 with the game an hour old. 

 

With their bench bringing a fresh impetus and new energy, the visitors showed great fitness in the closing stages and they registered their third try of the afternoon with a beautifully worked seven-pointer. Using a line out as an attacking platform, the ball was worked to Aki, and – showing a great understanding with his fellow centre – the Irish international brilliantly found the cutting line of Daly, and the Carlow native powered over the line. Carty added the extras and Connacht found themselves 18-30 up with fifteen minutes remaining. 

 

The Lions, to their credit, dusted themselves off quickly and they worked a neat move that saw winger Van Der Merwe collect a pass to touch down in the corner for an unconverted try that took the score to 23-30. 

 

With their tails up, the hosts added a second try in quick succession when their captain, Odendaal, burst through to touch down. Hendrickse added the conversion and the score was level at 30-30 with ten minutes remaining. 

 

Connacht, though, didn’t panic and they regained their lead with five minutes remaining when Carty accurately slotted a penalty to take the score to 33-30 to the away team. A brilliant counter ruck allowed Fifita to carry through and earn the penalty that the Roscommon man made no mistake with. 

 

Despite the hosts throwing the kitchen sink at it, Connacht held out firm to record a brilliant win in South Africa. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: Mack Hansen 

14: John Porch 

13: Bundee Aki 

12: Tom Daly

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Caolin Blade

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Jarrad Butler 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Niall Murray 

4: Oisin Dowling 

3: Jack Aungier 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: 

 

16: Dylan Tierney Martin for Dave Heffernan 

17: Jordan Duggan for Denis Buckley

18: Greg McGrath for Jack Aungier 

19: Leva Fifita for Oisin Dowling 

20: Conor Oliver for Paul Boyle 

21: Kieran Marmion for Caolin Blade 

22: Conor Fitzgerald for Alex Wootton 

23: Shayne Bolton for Bundee Aki(temporarily for HIA)

Connacht 19

Stormers 17 

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht defeated the DHL Stormers in a physical encounter at the Sportsground in the United Rugby Championship today. 

 

Tries from Paul Boyle, Tom Daly and Peter Sullivan, as well as two conversions from the boot of Conor Fitzgerald sealed the win in front of a raucous home crowd. 

 

The visitors, through Sergeal Petersen, Manie Libbok and Damian Willemse, notched three tries of their own but it was the home team – through a mix of grit and skill – who deservedly took the victory.

 

Connacht, with Boyle and Cian Prendergast prominent in the ball-carrying stakes, were the aggressors early on but the visitors’ defence held firm in a scoreless opening ten minutes in a blustery Sportsground. 

 

The game featured regular set pieces in the opening half of the first period and Connacht – with their front row of Tietie Tuimauga, Shane Delahunt, and Denis Buckley also impressing in the loose – were more than a match for the South Africans whose pack featured Springbok internationals. 

 

The visitors grew more into the contest as we approached the mid part of the first half and they made it count when Petersen dove over for an unconverted try to open the scoring for the afternoon. 

 

Connacht, though, didn’t panic and they registered their first score of the afternoon after the half-hour mark. Electing to take a quick tap penalty close to the away team’s try line, the hosts kept the ball with their forwards and, after multiple phases, Boyle muscled his way over. Fitzgerald added the extras and the home team took the lead, much to the delight of their vocal supporters. 

 

The visitors recovered just in time to take the lead going into the break. A looping garryowen, which was caught in the wind, caused confusion in the home defence and Willemse benefitted by touching down after a hack through. The conversion was wide and the away team went into the interval leading 10-7.

 

The Stormers started the second half in a similar fashion and, after a fortunate bounce from a Connacht knock-on, they scored their third try when the ball fell sweetly for Libbok to run in. He added the conversion and the away team were 17-7 to the good. 

 

A raft of changes brought new impetus to Connacht and they worked their way back into proceedings near the hour mark. After try scorer Petersen was yellow carded for an intentional knock-on borne out of pressure the home team, Connacht worked their man advantage brilliantly. 

 

Replacement Caolin Blade made a searing break, which fellow sub Conor Oliver continued with a big carry. Oliver then brilliantly offloaded to Fitzgerald, whose line was clever. The out-half then carried close to the line before offloading to Daly to touch down. It was a beautiful try and it exhibited Connacht at their best. The conversion was added by conversion and the deficit was cut to three points, 17-14.

Connacht had the momentum behind them and, with the Stormers being reduced to fourteen men again – this time for a high tackle – they seized the initiative.

 

A sweeping move saw the ball worked left and Wootton brilliantly offloaded to Sullivan – who had replaced Fitzgerald, who was on the receiving end of the Stormers yellow card tackle, after initially going off – to touch down in the corner. The try gave Connacht a slender lead at 19-17 and it’s one they held to claim a big win. 

 

Connacht team:

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan(Tom Farrell)

13: Sammy Arnold 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald (Peter Sullivan)

9: Kieran Marmion (Caolin Blade)

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Jarrad Butler (Conor Oliver)

6: Cian Prendergast (Abraham Papali’i)

5: Leva Fifita 

4: Niall Murray (Oisin Dowling)

3: Tietie Tuimauga (Jack Aungier)

2: Shane Delahunt (Jonny Murphy)

1: Denis Buckley (Jordan Duggan)

 

Replacements: 

16: Jonny Murphy 

17: Jordan Duggan 

18: Jack Aungier 

19: Oisin Dowling 

20: Conor Oliver 

21: Caolin Blade 

22: Tom Farrell 

23: Abraham Papali’i

Head coach Andy Friend wants Connacht to be aggressive and physically brave in Saturday’s 1 PM kick-off United Rugby Championship meeting with the DHL Stormers at the Sportsground. 

 

Connacht kept their Champions Cup qualification hopes for next season alive last weekend when they defeated the Scarlets in Wales 29-23.

 

The Stormers will pose a different challenge, but Friend – citing the 34-7 win over their compatriots, The Bulls, last October as an example that should provide confidence – is confident that his team can win if they stick to their tactical blueprint. 

 

“The blueprint is not too dissimilar to the Bulles,” the Australian said. 

 

“We know we’re up against a very physical side, so we’re going to have to front up physically. We have got to not be afraid to put bodies in front defensively. I think probably more so than against the Bulls, they are full of threats in the backfield, so our kicking game has got to be spot on. 

 

“And then similar when we played the Bulls, I thought we made the most out of all our opportunities. We got into the score zone and we executed, so our ability to look after the ball and to take our chances when opportunities present ourselves; if we can do all that, I think we can put ourselves in a very good position. 

 

“And if we don’t, they have enough firepower to really hurt us, so it will be a good contest.”

 

After last weekend’s win away to the Scarlets – the first in the league in Connacht’s history – Friend is keen for his team to find consistency and to knit a run of wins together. 

 

“It’s really important(to gain that consistency). That’s the beauty of this competition. Someone asked me the other day if the season looked like it was dwindling out, but it’s not; we still have eight games to go. 

 

“The teams that we’re playing, they’re either ahead of us or around us so there’s still a lot that can happen. The only thing that we can control is what we do on Saturday. It’s really important that we back that up(the Scarlets win) now and really important that we just don’t leave it.

 

“It was a good performance and a courageous performance, I thought, against a good Scarlets side, but if we leave it there, it won’t have counted for much. We’re very clear in our reckoning that out of the next seven games, we must win five of them. 

 

“We’ll be attempting to win seven of them, so ideally, we’ll target this one on the weekend and see how we go.”

 

Meanwhile, centre Tom Daly is keen to make up for lost time after his recent injury absences. 

 

The Carlow native returned to action last weekend away to the Scarlets after a number weeks out with injury and contributed an excellent performance, capped by providing two try assists for teammates in the victory in Wales. 

 

And now Daly is looking to contribute as much as he can to the Connacht cause between now and the end of the season. 

 

“Yeah, definitely, it’s always frustrating being injured,” he said. 

 

“I think I have been very lucky since I came to Connacht, I hadn’t had an injury since I’ve been here. I was on a nice roll, but unfortunately, injuries are a part of rugby and you’re always going to pick up one here or there and it was tough missing that block because there was a lot of big games in it. 

 

“Obviously the four European games, you want to be part of them and then the big interpros over Christmas as well, so it wasn’t the nicest block to miss but it’s just good to be back out there now and back winning games as well last weekend, which is good.”

 

The Stormers are Connacht’s next opponents when they visit the Sportsground and Saturday and Daly is expecting an exciting and physical affair. 

 

The key to any home win, the former Ireland sevens player said, is to front up in the physical stakes and not allow the visitors to release their talented backline. 

 

“I think you can expect from all South African teams that they are going to have a massive pack with big carriers and a really big back-row who are good over the ball and then some really good individuals in the backs. 

 

“I know one of their wingers, Seabelo Senatla, he is a former sevens player and I played against him at under ’20s and I remember he was electric back then and he’s the same now. Their whole back three looks very dangerous. 

 

“They are pretty similar to the Bulls team we played earlier in the season. A big heavy pack with good individuals in the backs, so it’s about fronting up physically and meeting them head-on, like we did with the Bulls earlier on in the year and then trying to keep their outside backs quiet by taming their forwards a little bit.”

Tom Daly is one of a number of players returning to the Connacht starting team for tomorrow’s URC interpro against Ulster in Belfast (k/o 8.15pm).
 
Daly has missed the last three months with a knee injury he sustained against Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, but now makes a welcome return to inside-centre alongside Sammy Arnold.
 
The starting XV also includes Denis Buckley for the first time since June, Conor Fitzgerald & John Porch who were unavailable last week, and Cian Prendergast who has returned from a stint with Ireland as a development player.
 
In all there are 11 changes to the side that disappointingly lost to Glasgow last weekend. Buckley is named in a new-look tight five with Shane Delahunt at hooker and Tietie Tuimauga who’s named at tighthead, while Niall Murray and Oisín Dowling are paired together in the second row. Jarrad Butler captains the side from number 8, with Prendergast and Conor Oliver on the flanks.
 
In the backs, out-half Conor Fitzgerald is handed his first start of the season with Kieran Marmion alongside him, while a new-look back three features Porch at full-back with Alex Wootton and Peter Sullivan on the wings.
 
Commenting on the team announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We’ve had an honest week with difficult conversations about what happened last weekend. The performance wasn’t nearly good enough and we need to see a major improvement tomorrow against a strong Ulster team who are on a good run of form.
 
We’re welcoming back a number of players for various reasons which is always a plus, and we can take confidence from a good record up in Belfast the last few years.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Friday 4th February, 20:15 @ Kingspan Stadium
 
Number/Name/Caps
15. John Porch (48)
14. Peter Sullivan (17)
13. Sammy Arnold (29)
12. Tom Daly (53)
11. Alex Wootton (28)
10. Conor Fitzgerald (45)
9. Kieran Marmion (198)
1. Denis Buckley (201)
2. Shane Delahunt (113)
3. Tietie Tuimauga (4)
4. Niall Murray (26)
5. Oisín Dowling (17)
6. Cian Prendergast (20)
7. Conor Oliver (32)
8. Jarrad Butler (86) (C)
 
Replacements
16. Jonny Murphy (17)
17. Jordan Duggan (22)
18. Greg McGrath (3)
19. Leva Fifita (6)
20. Paul Boyle (66)
21. Colm Reilly (8)
22. Cathal Forde (1)
23. Oran McNulty (6)

Connacht Rugby are thrilled to announce Tom Daly has become the latest player to commit his future to the province, with the centre signing a new two-year deal.
 
Daly has become an important member of the squad since joining Connacht on an initial loan deal in December 2018. His move became permanent at the end of that season, however it was his performances during the 2020/21 season that saw him reach new heights.
 
That season he was named both the Connacht Rugby Players’ Player and Supporters’ Player of the Year, and was rewarded with his first call-up to the Ireland squad for the 2021 Summer Internationals.
 
Commenting on the announcement, Tom Daly says:
 
“Playing for Connacht has been the highlight of my career so far. There’s a really strong group of players and management who are all working together to succeed both in the URC and Champions Cup. I’m thankful to Andy and the coaches who have shown trust in me and I can’t wait to play my part in achieving our aims in the years ahead.”
 
Head Coach Andy Friend added:
 
“Tom is the perfect example of a player who has grabbed his playing opportunities with both hands. I’ve been impressed by him ever since he joined on his loan deal in 2018, and then we all saw last season just how good of a player he’s become. We’re all looking forward to seeing him continue his progression and help the squad to succeed over the next two years.”

Kieran Marmion, Tom Daly and Eoghan Masterson have come into the Connacht starting XV for tomorrow’s hugely anticipated URC interpro with Ulster at the Aviva Stadium (k/o 5.15pm).
 
Their inclusions are the only changes from the side that put in an impressive performance against Munster last week, with out-half Jack Carty again captaining the side.
 
Daly partners Sammy Arnold in the centre, with Bundee Aki being monitored for a knee injury. He is expected to return to full training next week with the National Team. The back three is again made up of wingers Mack Hansen and John Porch, and full-back Tiernan O’Halloran.
 
The tight five is unchanged – with a front row of Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, and locks Niall Murray and Ultan Dillane.
 
Eoghan Masterson is a direct replacement for injury absentee Cian Prendergast on the flank, with Conor Oliver and number 8 Paul Boyle alongside them.
 
The Connacht coaching team have gone back to a 4-3 split on the bench, with Conor Fitzgerald coming back into the matchday squad.
 
Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We’ve been looking forward to tomorrow for a long time. The opportunity to return to the Aviva Stadium, but this time with thousands of Connacht supporters behind us, is something we’re all incredibly excited about. The importance of this fixture is not lost on us either. So far this season the performances have been good but the results haven’t matched up to that, so now we have to give absolutely everything to make sure we end this block of fixtures on a winning note.”
 
CONNACHT RUGBY MATCHDAY 23 VS ULSTER RUGBY
Saturday 23rd October, Aviva Stadium @ 17:15

Number/Name/Caps
15. Tiernan O’Halloran (194)
14. John Porch (43)
13. Sammy Arnold (20)
12. Tom Daly (52)
11. Mack Hansen (4)
10. Jack Carty (163) (C)
9. Kieran Marmion (190)
1. Matthew Burke (27)
2. Dave Heffernan (148)
3. Finlay Bealham (163)
4. Niall Murray (20)
5. Ultan Dillane (118)
6. Eoghan Masterson (112)
7. Conor Oliver (24)
8. Paul Boyle (61)

16. Shane Delahunt (104)
17. Jordan Duggan (16)
18. Jack Aungier (17)
19. Oisín Dowling (10)
20. Jarrad Butler (77)
21. Caolin Blade (134)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (38)
23. Diarmuid Kilgallen (2)

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht 34

Bulls 7

 

Connacht welcomed back fans to the Sportsground for the first time in over a year and they didn’t disappoint their supporters with a 34-7 win over the Bulls in the United Rugby Championship. 

 

Despite conceding an early try to Lizo Gqoboka, the Westerners rallied and scored five tries in a brilliant performance of physical dominance and skill. 

 

Tom Daly crossed for two tries, while player of the match Mack Hansen — on his home debut — Tom Farrell and Tiernan O’Halloran also dotted down five-pointers. The boot of the impressive Jack Carty tacked on three conversions and a penalty to account for the thirty-four points. 

 

The physical South African team started well and, after only a minute, found themselves in front when their loose-head, Gqoboka, powered his way over for a converted try.

 

Connacht, though, didn’t panic and soon after levelled the scores up when a rumbling maul gave them territory in the Bulls’ 22. From there, the ball was worked wide with speed. Tom Farrell throw a beautiful offload out of the tackle to Carty and the fly-half picked out O’Halloran to touch down. The Roscommon native then added the conversion to tie the game up at 7-7.

 

The line out was proving to be an excellent platform for the home team to launch attacks and it was through the set-piece that they took the lead for the first time. After winning a line out, Connacht constructed a move — which included a Kieran Marmion break — that was eventually ended when a Bulls player was penalised for not rolling away. Showing composure, Carty made no mistake to take the score to 10-7 in the Westerners’ favour. 

 

The home team started the second half in a similar fashion to what they finished the first and they had their second try not long into the second period. A probing move from the forwards close to the line — with Abraham Papali’i carrying hard and often — established field position. Then, the ball was worked to the backs and Daly — running on an arc — powered over. Carty once again added the extras and Connacht lead 17-7.

 

It wasn’t long before it became three tries and it was a score worth waiting for. Fielding the ball in his own half, Hansen — with pace in abundance — fired his way down the pitch, evading several tackles, and dove over for a try of individual brilliance. At 22-7, the home team were deservedly ahead. 

 

With the bonus point try in their sights, Connacht continued to play with ambition and a high tempo and their efforts were rewarded with ten minutes remaining. A solid scrum on halfway gave Marmion clean ball to work with. The scrum-half made a burst, fed a pass to Carty and the Roscommon man’s pass was met by Farrell on a clever line. The centre then powered his way through the midfield to touch down for the home sides bonus point. Carty then tacked on the conversion and the Westerners found themselves 29-7 ahead. 

 

The home team weren’t done there, however, and they had a fifth try with the clock in red at the end of the game. Daly, with the aid of team-mates lending their strength close to the line, crashed over the whitewash to seal the win at 34-7.

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9) 

 

15: Tiernan O’Halloran 

14: John Porch
13: Tom Farrell 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Mack Hansen 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Abraham Papali’i

7: Jarrad Butler © 

6: Cian Prendergast

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Oisin Dowling 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Jordan Duggan 

 

Replacements: 

 

16: Shane Delahunt for Dave Heffernan 

17: Matthew Burke for Jordan Duggan

18: Jack Aungier for Finlay Bealham

19: Leva Fifita for Oisin Dowling

20: Conor Oliver for Jarrad Butler 

21: Caolin Blade 

22: Paul Boyle for Papali’i

23: Sammy Arnold for Cian Prendergast

FIND YOUR MATCH TICKETS HERE

Centre Tom Daly believes that the lessons learned from last weekend’s defeat away to Cardiff Rugby will stand Connacht in good stead as the season progresses. 

 

The Westerners, who scored two tries through Kieran Marmion with the boot of Jack Carty tacked on three penalties and a conversion, lost 33-21 in a quick tempo, entertaining game at Cardiff Arms Park. 

 

Despite the reversal in Wales, Daly believes Connacht can make amends, starting this Friday when they welcome the Vodacom Bulls to the Sportsground at 7:35 PM. 

 

The game was decided by small margins and the centre — who started alongside the returning Tom Farrell in Wales — is relishing the challenge the South Africans will provide and the opportunity it will provide to put the learnings of the Cardiff defeat into action. 

 

“It’s definitely an opportunity lost, from our point of view,” the Carlow native said. 

 

“We always knew it would be tough going away to Cardiff. It always is. Friendy(Andy Friend) said last week that we only won there twice in the last ten years and it’s probably the best position we have put ourselves in there in the last couple of years. We had that line out five metres out with fifteen to go to go ahead. 

 

“Unfortunately, that didn’t go to plan and then a few lapses in discipline and we lose a few players and you’re never really going to close out the game with thirteen men versus fifteen, so it’s maybe those little things like discipline — and that lapse of concentration at the line out — that we need to really learn from that and improve and it’s a big opportunity this weekend back at home at the Sportsground against the Bulls. 

 

“We know what sort of challenge we’re going to face against them, it’s definitely a different challenge to Cardiff, but we’re looking forward to it.”

 

Friday night’s clash will be the first game that Connacht host with a crowd since October 2020 and Daly — as well as the entire squad and coaching staff — is looking forward to welcoming the Westerners’ faithful back to the Sportsground. 

 

“Definitely,” the 28-year old said when asked if he felt the return of the home crowd would give the Westerners a boost. 

 

“Even playing last week, I know we were away to Cardiff, you can just see the kind of effect it has on the game. When they do something and the crowd gets behind them, it really lifts them. 

 

“We’re looking forward to having a few thousand Connacht fans back in the stadium this weekend and it will definitely give us the kind of lift we need. I’m really looking forward to that and it would be great to get as many in as we can in the Sportsground.”

 

Meanwhile, attack coach Peter Wilkins says that Connacht will need to be at their best — in all aspects of the game — to get their first win of the season against the Bulls. 

 

The South Africans were defeated 31-3 away to Leinster last weekend, but Wilkins says the Westerners must be wary of their smarting opposition. 

 

“I think they will certainly be smarting from it(the Leinster loss),” Wilkins said. 

 

“I thought the performance they put in against Leinster was higher energy and it was highly skilled in parts. They have got some very good players and some established internationals, others that are obviously away, but certainly enough quality that they are a real threat. 

 

“We need to frame them as a momentum team. They want to put you on the back foot at the set-piece, whether that’s in the scrum or the maul or whether that’s in the second phase to bring big runners around the corner or big runners back against the grain.’’

 

Counteracting the physicality of the away team will help the Westerners’ cause, the Englishman said, but Connacht can’t just rely on that and will need to focus on their own strengths such as tempo and speed of their passing and angles of running. 

 

“There’s an enormous physical threat there, but I also think it’s too simple to say they’re purely a momentum team and if you front up physically you’ll get the job done. 

 

“I think there is a bit of nuance there in how we need to play, both in attack and defence, to respect the threats they have got.”

 

Andy Farrell and the coaching team have named a 37 man squad for the Vodafone Summer Series which features two Tests in July against Japan and the USA at the Aviva Stadium.
 
The match against Japan on Saturday 3rd July will kick off at 1.00pm and the fixture against the USA on Saturday 10th July will kick off at 7.15pm. Both fixtures are part of the government’s outdoor pilot sport event programme which will see limited supporters back in the Aviva Stadium.
 
James Ryan will captain the squad during the Vodafone Summer Series and there are 11 uncapped players named – Robert Baloucoune, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney (Ulster), Caolin Blade, Tom Daly, Paul Boyle, (Connacht), Harry Byrne, Peter Dooley, Ross Molony (Leinster), Gavin Coombes, Fineen Wycherley (Munster).
 
Andy Farrell, Ireland head coach, said, “We now have two games at home to focus on which will be a good challenge for the group. Japan played the Sunwolves at the weekend and will play the Lions the week before we play at the Aviva Stadium and we know the quality of their squad from the World Cup. We will assemble as a squad on the 22nd June and begin our preparations for the two games.
 
I know the players will come in eager to make the most of this opportunity to pull on the green jersey and play in front of supporters for at the Aviva Stadium for the first time in 18 months.
 
Johnny (Sexton), Cian (Healy) and Keith (Earls) will not be involved in this window as we grow the experience of other players. It will be a great opportunity to see can this group perform at this level.”
 
Both games will be broadcast live by RTE (ROI) and Channel 4 (NI).
 
Ireland Vodafone Summer Series Squad 2021
 
Backs (17)
Will Addison (Ulster/Enniskillen) 4 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) uncapped
Caolin Blade (Connacht/Galwegians) uncapped
Billy Burns (Ulster) 6 caps
Harry Byrne (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 22 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 1 cap
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 24 caps
Shane Daly (Munster/Cork Constitution) 1 cap
Tom Daly (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Chris Farrell (Munster/Young Munster) 14 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 9 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 11 caps
Jordan Larmour (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 29 caps
Stuart McCloskey (Ulster/Bangor) 4 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 34 caps
Jacob Stockdale (Ulster/Lurgan) 34 caps

Forwards (20)
Ryan Baird (Leinster/Dublin University) 3 caps
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 14 caps
Paul Boyle (Connacht/Lansdowne) uncapped
Ed Byrne (Leinster/UCD) 4 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped
Ultan Dillane (Connacht/Corinthians) 18 caps
Peter Dooley (Leinster/Lansdowne) uncapped
Caelan Doris (Leinster/UCD) 7 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 5 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 21 caps
Ronan Kelleher (Leinster/Lansdowne) 11 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 43 caps
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 75 caps
Tom O’Toole (Ulster/Ballynahinch) uncapped
James Ryan (Leinster/UCD) 35 caps
John Ryan (Munster/Cork Constitution) 23 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) uncapped
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 31 caps
Fineen Wycherley (Munster/Young Munster) uncapped

Selected for British & Irish Lions Tour:
Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne, Jack Conan, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Murray, Andrew Porter (inj)

Ireland Summer Test Fixtures:

IRELAND v Japan
Saturday 3rd July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 13.00hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

IRELAND v USA
Saturday 10th July, 2021
Aviva Stadium
KO: 19.15hrs
Broadcaster: RTE & Channel 4

Benetton Rugby 20

Connacht 12

 

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Connacht were defeated 20-12 by Benetton Rugby in a physical GuinnessPRO14 Rainbow Cup affair at Stadio Comunale di Monigo tonight. 

 

Despite scoring more tries than the hosts, thanks to Shane Delahunt and Paul Boyle dotting down, one of which Tom Daly converted, the Westerners couldn’t eke out the win. 

 

The hosts scored a try of their own — through centre Juan Ignacio Brex —  and the boot of Paolo Garbisi slotted five penalties to give the Italians the win, their fourth victory in succession. 

 

It was a momentous occasion for Denis Buckley, meanwhile, who made his 200th appearance for the province at the same stadium in which he made his debut in 2011.

 

With a dry track, both teams were intent to attack early on and it was Connacht who struck first blood. A powerful rolling maul surged its way towards the line and it was Delahunt who put the finishing touches on the move by diving over the line. Daly slotted the extras and the away team lead 7-0 inside the opening five minutes. 

 

To their credit, Benetton responded well and Brex — the former Argentinian age-grade centre — ran an arching line and collected a pass to run in a try. Garbisi was wide with his conversion attempt, but the home team — who knew a win would keep them in touch for a final berth — would have been content to be on the scoreboard. 

 

The game became more physical and broken after the exciting open ten minutes and it was the Italians who scored next with Garbisi — the Italian international fly half — twice kicking penalties to give the home team the lead at the break at 11-7.

 

Connacht immediately set about wrestling the momentum back in their favour and they were rewarded for their attitude when a second rolling maul bore try-scoring fruit. This time it was Boyle — who was transferred the ball by Delahunt — who touched down and the away team lead by the narrowest of margins, 12-11. 

 

It would be the Westerners last score, however, as the excellent Garbisi brought the Italian team back into the lead with a three pointer from the kicking tee and he added two more penalties late on — when Connacht were reduced to fourteen men after replacement Abraham Papali’i was sent off — to seal the win for the hosts. 

 

Connacht will entertain the Ospreys next weekend with a 6 pm kick-off on Friday evening. 

 

Connacht team: 

 

(15-9)

 

15: John Porch 

14: Peter Sullivan 

13: Bundee Aki 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Conor Fitzgerald 

9: Kieran Marmion 

 

(8-1)

 

8: Paul Boyle 

7: Jarrad Butler 

6: Cian Prendergast 

5: Ultan Dillane 

4: Niall Murray 

3: Finlay Bealham 

2: Shane Delahunt 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: 

 Dave Heffernan for Delahunt  Paddy McAllister for Buckley Dominic Robertson McCoy for Bealham, Oising Dowling for Murray, Abraham Papali’i for Prendergast,  Caolin Blade for Marmion, Jack Carty for Fitzgerald,  Sammy Arnold for Porch.

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